New EHICs now issued without EU symbol – but you CAN still use them until at least the end of the year
European Health Insurance Cards (EHICs) issued in the UK will no longer feature the European symbol. But don't worry, they will still be accepted in participating countries until at least the end of 2020.
EHICs are free and give Brits access to free or discounted medical care in all EU countries, plus some others. And even though the UK left the EU on 31 January 2020, you can still use your existing EHIC for now, and order new or replacement EHICs as usual.
The NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) has now announced that new and replacement EHICs issued from 1 February 2020 won't feature the European mark – a symbol consisting of the holder's country surrounded by EU stars, as pictured above. Instead, the new cards will simply be marked 'UK', without the EU symbol.
But the NHSBSA has reassured travellers that the change in design won't have any effect on how the EHIC actually works. You'll still be able to use the cards until at least 31 December 2020 – and if you have an EHIC with the old design, you can carry on using it until then, as long as it hasn't expired.
However, crucially we still don't know what will happen to EHICs after the end of this year. The Government says it's still in discussions with the EU – see the latest on what happens to EHICs after this year below.
The NHSBSA has also announced that it will now hold the personal data of EHIC holders for four years after the card expires – rather than the two years it holds this data for at the moment. It says this is to allow it to process cost of treatment claims which are made close to the card's expiry.
How do EHICs work?
If you're travelling in Europe and you've got an EHIC, you're entitled to the same treatment that local citizens are entitled to – extremely useful in emergencies.
Getting one is free. Full eligibility criteria for the EHIC can be found on the NHS website, but ordinarily if you are a resident of the UK you'll be entitled to a UK-issued EHIC.
It's also worth noting the EHIC covers all EU countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. Some (but not all) overseas territories are also included – for example, Portugal's cover includes the Azores and Madeira. See our Country-by-country EHIC guide for full info.
How to check if your EHIC is valid and how to renew it
You can check the expiry date on your EHIC on the bottom right of the card. If it's already expired, or is about to, renew it now (see How to apply).
Though you must be over 16 to apply, it's also worth noting that every family member requires a card. To apply on behalf of a child, just include them as a dependent in the relevant section of the application and you'll each receive a separate EHIC.
As you can apply for a new card up to six months before the current one ends, it's worth doing this in advance so you don't forget.
There are several ways to register for a card. Generally, it'll take about 10 days for it to come through (longer for posted applications), though it's worth applying early so you get your EHIC in good time for your holiday.
You can get an EHIC the following ways (only do it in these ways and avoiding Googling 'EHIC', as you may be shown sites that charge you):
- Apply on the EHIC website, or find more info on the NHS website.
- Call 0300 330 1350.
- Print the application form on the NHS website, fill it in and post it to: NHS Business Services Authority, European Health Insurance Card, EHIC Applications, Bridge House, 152 Pilgrim Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 6SN.
You'll continue to be able to use your EHIC card for the rest of 2020, and apply for a new card or renew yours if needed.
However, after the transition period ends from 1 January 2021, the EHIC's future is less certain. The Government says it is discussing the future of reciprocal healthcare arrangements – including the future of the EHIC – with the EU.
The EU and UK have already agreed that some EHICs will remain valid after 2021 though:
- UK pensioners living in the EU at the end of 2020 will be able to continue using their EHICs.
- UK students studying in the EU at the end of 2020 will also be able to continue using them.
- UK and EU nationals who find themselves in a 'cross-border situation' at the end of December 2020, ie, people who are on holiday in the EU over the New Year, will be able to use their EHIC to access treatment until they return back to the UK.
For anyone else travelling after 31 December 2020, whether your EHIC will continue to be valid will depend on the outcome of the UK's negotiations with the EU.
Regardless of when you're travelling, it's important to check you have travel insurance that will cover you for medical costs.